I am really feeling a change in the season now – even though we are still having some days with the temperatures in the 80’s up here in northern California. But the nights are cool, the grapes are all harvested and the leaves are changing color. And rain is forecast later in the week. At this time of year, my food choices change too. Here’s what I move towards.
Two things instantly spring to mind when I think of eating in the fall – roasted vegetables and soups. Both of these provide a great opportunity to increase the number and variety of plants in your diet. These dishes can easily be vegetarian as they can be substantial on their own. Or you can add a small amount of meat/poultry as more of a garnish – rather than the main part of a meal. If you aren’t vegetarian or vegan, it’s good to try to regularly have some meals without animal products.
At this time of year and into winter we need to have good levels of vitamins and minerals to support our immune system to fight off colds and flu. Vegetables will give you lots of these. The fiber from all these vegetables helps support our gut bacteria too (microbiota), which are integral for our immunity and many other aspects of our health.
Roasting vegetables is a great way to have a selection of colorful veg – getting your “rainbow a day.” They can look so pretty. As you prepare them, think about the rainbow and try to get the main colors in there – red, orange, yellow, green, blue (blue potatoes or beets), and white. Yes, white is a color of the food rainbow, so don’t forget it. Think cauliflower, garlic, onions etc.
I love to add some chickpeas to my roasted vegetables. Try putting them in the roasting pan about half way through – so they crispen up on the outside but still stay soft in the middle. Chickpeas are a good source of vegetable protein (29% protein) – and are a very good source of molybdenum ( I love saying that word!), manganese, folate, copper, fiber, iron, and zinc. See the World’s Healthiest Foods for more information on chickpeas.
I occasionally add in some seasonal fruit to my roasted vegetables – especially fresh figs – but also apples and pears are a nice addition. Add them, like the chickpeas, later on in the cooking so they don’t go to mush but are cooked and warm.
Maybe Kathie will add a roasted veg recipe to the blog with a yummy combination of spices that she is so good at? (No pressure Kathie!!!)
What is not to like about soups? On a chilly day, eating a bowl of soup is just like wrapping yourself in a cozy blanket. So snuggy! We have a couple of soup recipes on this blog
- Kathie’s recent one – Moroccan-spiced chickpea soup with greens. I’m going to give that a try this week.
- One of my favorites – Tomato red pepper soup. This uses store cupboard ingredients and the recipe also teaches you how to adjust the flavor of soups to your own particular palate. This is particularly important if you are experiencing changes in your taste.
I know some more soup recipes will appear in the next few months – so keep watching and let us know which you like the best.
Again, you can use lots of different vegetables in a soup and they are a great way to use up vegetables.
What type of soup do you prefer? Smooth and silky, chunky, more broth-like with distinct vegetables in? Are you a soup garnisher or not? I love floating things in my soup once it’s served – particularly for those smooth and silky soups to give them some variety of texture. As you cook soups this fall, think about what you can top them with. Seeds are one of my favorite – hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds…. – seeds are so good for our mineral intake.
Using my freezer
If you are like us, you might have been growing some of your own fruit and vegetables in the garden this summer, or buying from a farmer’s market. I love picking my fresh salad of mixed leaves every day, including rainbow chard, kale, arugula, and lettuces, and eating them within 10 minutes of them being harvested.
But a client asked me yesterday whether it mattered that the food that she bought at the farmer’s market was still in her fridge one week later. Did that make a difference? Freshness is key to the nutritional value of foods. As time passes after harvesting, the nutritional value starts to diminish. So, to get the maximum nutritional value from the foods, it’s best to eat them as soon as you can after you have picked or bought them. And try to buy local and seasonal foods when you can. This makes sense because when vegetables have come to our supermarkets and stores via long air journeys, often over days, they are no longer at their peak. Yes, ‘older’ vegetables still have some benefits – but they are just more beneficial closer to the time of harvesting.
But it’s tricky to always eat freshly picked vegetables. When you buy vegetables it can be hard to eat them up in the first couple of days if you live alone or if there are just the two of you in a household. That’s why I often think of this change of season as a time to start using my freezer more often.
Buying frozen vegetables
First of all, you can buy frozen vegetables and, most often, they are frozen within a few hours of harvesting – thus retaining their nutritional value. This is a great option – and often a real time saver too as the vegetables will already be washed and chopped and prepared. So don’t feel guilty about using frozen vegetables. They will no doubt be more nutritious than that old bunch of kale stuck in the back of your fridge!
Freezing your own vegetables
The other option to consider when you do buy fresh vegetables is to prepare and cook all of them and to freeze some of them for later. For example, make a larger pot of soup from your veg – and then freeze in individual portions. You can also freeze those roasted veg.
Using your freezer more also helps life be less stressful too. Take it easy and just re-heat a home-cooked frozen meal some days of the week.
Favorite fall vegetables
Here are some of my favorite fall veg. Maybe this will encourage you to try a few different ones this season? Which are your favorites?
- delicata squash – I love these because you can eat the outer skin and don’t have to peel them. I tend to cut them into circles, remove the seeds and roast either as circles or semi-circles. Quick, easy, not hard work like butternut squash, and yummy
- beets – I’m a fan of golden beets more than red beets. They have a delicate flavor and don’t seem as messy – all that bright red juice! I still have red beets for some dishes – but goldens are my go to. I’ll have to share one of my recipes with you soon for beets. How do you prepare them?
- celeriac – aka celery root – this always goes in my roasted veggies. It’s that ugly looking root from the celery family. Not the prettiest of veg and often ignored, it has a gentle, delicate, anise flavor. I also add it to mashed potatoes as they are cooking and it gives a good flavor to the potatoes. You can also eat it raw – often grated in salads. It’s a great source of fiber. Because it’s so warty and uneven on the surface, you normally need to peel it.
- kale – while I eat my kale raw in the summer, I tend it cook it in the fall and winter, or have it dehydrated.
- potatoes – my favorites are purple potatoes. I just love that color. But baked sweet potatoes are also great at this time of year – with a variety of toppings or accompaniments. One of the great things about potatoes is that they are a wonderful source of resistant starch. However, the resistant starch only really forms when the cooked potato has cooled. So when you cook some potatoes, add a few extras and eat them cold the next day. You can eat them in a potato salad or just on their own. I’ll write more soon on the benefits of resistant starch.
- carrots – again this is another veg that goes in my roasted selection – or often times I will just roast carrots on their own. I love to do a tray of different colored carrots and drizzle them once roasted with a mix of lemon juice and cashew butter. Yum!
- spaghetti squash. I rarely eat pasta – maybe once a year – but I love spiralized vegetables, and of course, spaghetti squash. It just seems such a clever vegetable that after roasting, all these long strings of yumminess come out. If you haven’t tried it – give it a go. Add any sauce you would normally use with a pasta – although I tend to stick with a tomato based one.
- Brussels sprouts. I think the Brussel is finally gaining some popularity. It used to be the joke that no one wanted to admit to liking – but hopefully it is growing out of that phase. I love them roasted (of course), but also with the leaves pulled apart and gently sauteed.
- cauliflower – such a versatile vegetable – you can make pizzas and bread from it, you can puree/mash it as an alternative to mashed potato, you can make “rice” from it, you can roast it, steam, boil…… And as a cruciferous vegetable, it is really beneficial for our health.
- parsnips – one of my all time favourite roasted veg. That sweetness is just heavenly.
Let’s up our vegetable intake this fall – and up the variety. What veg will you add to your menus that you don’t normally eat? I’m going to try some different squash. There are lots I’ve never tasted and cooked with. Which would you recommend?
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